VIDEO CAMERA 1995

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IQ TEST

With so much digital high-tech wizardry floating around these days itís easy to overlook the humble AV processor. They are still one of the cheapest and simplest ways of licking a home video movie into shape, and an essential ingredient in any post production system. The IQ Studio AV Processor has all the most useful facilities, needed to tidy up raw footage prior to copying or editing; it has an audio and video fader -- to black or white. The audio side has a 3-channel mixer, with a preview  feature (so you can listen to each input separately), and switchable noise reduction. The video facilities comprise variable colour saturation, brightness and enhance controls, and a split-screen preview.

 

AV inputs and outputs are via a set of phono connectors on the back panel, along with a pair of mini DIN sockets for S-Video input and output. Power is supplied by a  plug-in mains adaptor and the outfit comes complete with a stereo headphones and boom mike, two phono-to-phono leads, a phono-to-SCART adaptor, and an S-Video cable. All that for just £120, but how well does it work?

 

There are no problems on that score. The video fader is very smooth, and covers the full range, with no residual image. The colour control has enough adjustment to make small corrections to over or under saturated signals; the gain slider makes minor changes to both picture brightness and contrast. ĎEnhanceí is not a facility we use a lot, it increases picture sharpness, usually at the expense of extra noise and gives the picture a harsh texture. This one is no exception, there probably are occasions when it might come in useful, though weíve never found one and it remained at minimum setting during our tests.  On the other hand split screen is quite useful, (not to be confused with the special effect of the same name, where the screen shows two separate images). In this case the source image is the same on both sides, but the split down the middle shows the before and after effect of any signal processing, so you can see how much the picture has been changed. The processor doesnít have a monitor output, so itís necessary to switch the split screen off, before making a final copy.

 

The audio mixer works well, the sliders are noise free, and have a progressive feel to them. The noise reduction system is more like a treble cut, it has an effect on hiss, but at the expense of high frequency response, which is not a good idea on video soundtracks, particularly lo-fi mono S/VHS-C audio, which becomes rather woolly when the NR is engaged. The headphones and boom mike are fairly cheap items, itís not a problem though, and the microphone is okay for narration, though the sound is a tad tinny.

 

Overall a very well thought-out system. The console is sturdy and generally well made, though the power indicator on our sample wasnít working (this turned out to be dry-joints on the actual LED). Performance is very reasonable indeed and itís good value. Recommended.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model        IQ STUDIO AV PROCESSOR

Guide Price         £120

Features              split-screen preview, saturation, enhance & brightness controls, video fade, audio fade, 3-channel stereo mixer with microphone input, noise reduction, audio preview

Accessories           stereo headset with boom microphone, AC adaptor, 2 x phono to phono AV leads, phono to SCART adaptor, S-Video lead

Sockets   AV in/out (phono), S-Video in/out (mini DIN), microphone, earphone (minijack), DC power            

Dimensions         270 x 170 x 50mm

Weight                810g

Distributor         JESSOPS, Jessops House, Scudamore Road, Leicester LE3 1TZ

Telephone (0116) 2320033

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   9

 

KRAMER CONNECTION

Unless youíre involved in professional video production you probably wonít have come across Kramer Electronics before. Kramer are an Israeli-based manufacturer of video and audio post production equipment; the VS-205 AV processor is one of the first products in their range that crosses over into the domestic end of the video movie-making market.

 

Its looks and feels rather more substantial than most of the AV processors weíre used to seeing, and thatís reflected in the price, which is just under £300. Nevertheless, itís very well featured, and the technical specifications easily exceed the demands of most home video set-ups.

 

The most important features are a four switchable AV inputs, 3-channel stereo audio mixer with bass and treble tone controls, individual audio and video faders, plus a range of video effects that includes variable contrast, colour saturation and definition controls, which sharpens or softens the image. It also has an unusual posterisation mode, that increases colour contrast, giving the image a cartoon-like quality. A split-screen facility, with moveable split-line, shows the picture before and after processing. Finally thereís a key and invert options, which are tied in with the posterisation control. The key control pre-defines a luminance level to which processing effects can be applied. So, for example, only light areas of the picture will be affected by the contrast or definition controls. The invert switch reverses the process so that light areas remain unaffected, and processing is only applied to darker sections of the picture. The results are fairly subtle, but useful for fine-tuning an image, prior to copying or editing.

 

The VS-205 has one more trick up its sleeve. It can convert composite video signals to S-Video, and vice-versa. This can be very useful for combining low-band material into high-band productions. The conversion process cannot increase the resolution of the image to S-Video standard, though S-Video pictures from a composite source look a little bit cleaner, and are be less prone to cross-colour effects and patterning.

 

Audio interconnections are handled by a bank of phono sockets on the back panel. Composite video inputs and outputs use BNC connectors, which are fairly standard in high-end systems, but a little unusual on domestic equipment. Fortunately BNC to phono adaptors are readily available. S-Video formatted signals use mini DIN connectors, and the front mounted microphone and headphone sockets are standard jack connectors.

 

The controls are very straightforward. Input selection is by a set of four illuminated push buttons on the top panel, thereís no timing correction on the video signals, so it canít be used for real-time switching as there is a momentary disturbance at the changeover point. Effects and power on are selected  by a row of buttons on the front. The sliders feel very silky, an internal investigation revealed them to be high-grade components, of a type rarely seen on domestic equipment. The only small grumble concerns the placement of the tone controls and screen splitter, which get in the way of the main slider banks. It would have been much better to site both sets of controls above the sliders

 

The main AV functions work well, and the sliders are wonderfully smooth. The posterisation effect is rather coarse, though, and although the results look interesting, we canít see it being used very much in routine productions, without it becoming a bit tedious. The definition control also has limited applications, though its quite good at reducing the impact of noise on older recordings.

 

Thereís no shortage of competent AV processors on the market, though most of them are really only suited to fairly light duties. The VS-205 on the other hand is built to last. Itís the one to go for, if youíre into serious post-production work, and in that context itís worth spending a little extra.  

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model       Kramer VS-205 AV Processor

Guide Price         £300

Features              four-input source switching, S-Video to composite/composite to S-Video conversion, 3-channel stereo audio mixer, bass & treble adjustment, split-screen preview, variable contrast, saturation and definition, posterisation, key-luminance control

Sockets                Audio input & output (phono), composite video input & output (BNC), S-Video input & output (mini DIN), microphone and headphone (std jack)

Dimensions         382 x 224 x 82            

Distributor         PRISMA Europe Ltd, Priory House, Pitsford Street, Birmingham B18 6LX. Telephone 0121 554 5540

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   8

 

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R.Maybury 1995 2705

 


 

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